From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Black Power is a political slogan and a name
for various associated ideologies aimed at achieving
self-determination for people of African descent.
It is used by African Americans in the United States
 It was prominent in the late 1960s and early 1970s,
emphasizing racial pride and the creation of black
political and cultural institutions to nurture and promote
black collective interests and advance black values.
"Black Power" expresses a range of political goals, from
defense against racial oppression, to the establishment of
social institutions and a self-sufficient economy.
Origin as a political slogan
The earliest known usage of the term is found in a 1954 book
by Richard Wright entitled Black Power. New York politician
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. used the term on May 29, 1966 during
an address at Howard University: "To demand these God-given
rights is to seek black power."
The first popular use of the term "Black Power" as a political
and racial slogan was by Stokely Carmichael
(later known as Kwame Ture) and Willie Ricks (later known as
Mukasa Dada), both organizers and spokespersons for the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). On June 16, 1966,
in a speech in Greenwood, Mississippi, after the shooting of James
Meredith during the March Against Fear, Stokely Carmichael said:
This is the twenty-seventh time I have been arrested and I ain't going
to jail no more! The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin'
us is to take over. What we gonna start sayin' now is Black Power!
Stokely Carmichael saw the concept of "Black Power" as a means of
solidarity between individuals within the movement. It was a replacement
of the "Freedom Now!" slogan of Carmichael's contemporary, the non-violent
leader Martin Luther King. With his use of the term, Carmichael felt this
movement was not just a movement for racial desegregation, but rather a
movement to help end how American racism had weakened blacks. He said,
"'Black Power' means black people coming together to form a political
force and either electing representatives or forcing their representatives
to speak their needs."
A range of ideologies
Black Power adherents believed in Black autonomy, with a variety of tendencies
such as black nationalism, black self-determination, and black separatism.
Such positions caused friction with leaders of the mainstream
Civil Rights Movement, and thus the two movements have sometimes been viewed
as inherently antagonistic. Civil Rights leaders often proposed passive,
non-violent tactics while the Black Power movement felt that, in the words
of Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, "a 'non-violent' approach to
civil rights is an approach black cannot afford and a luxury white people
do not deserve."  "However, many groups and individuals - including
Rosa Parks, Robert F. Williams, Maya Angelou, Gloria Richardson, and
Fay Bellamy Powell - participated in both civil rights and black power
activism. A growing number of scholars conceive of the civil rights and
black power movements as one interconnected Black Freedom Movement.
Numerous Black Power advocates were in favor of black self
determination due to the belief that black people must lead
and run their own organizations. Stokely Carmichael is such
an advocate and states that, "only black people can convey
the revolutionary idea--and it is a revolutionary idea--that
black people are able to do things themselves."  However,
this is not to say that Black Power advocates promoted racial
segregation or were racist. Stokely Carmichael and Charles V.
Hamilton write that "there is definite, much-needed role whites
can play." They felt that white could serve the movement by
educating other white people.
Not all Black Power advocates were in favor of black separatism.
While Stokely Carmichael and SNCC were in favor of separatism for
a time in the late 1960s, organizations such as the
Black Panther Party for Self-Defense were not. Though the Panthers
considered themselves to be at war with the prevailing white
supremacist power structure, they were not at war with all whites,
but rather those (mostly white) individuals empowered by the
injustices of the structure and responsible for its reproduction.
Bobby Seale, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Black Panther Party for
Self-Defense, was outspoken about this issue. His stand was that the
oppression of black people was more of a result of economic
exploitation than anything innately racist. In his book Seize the Time,
he states that "In our view it is a class struggle between the massive
proletarian working class and the small, minority ruling class. Working-
class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive
ruling class. So let me emphasize again—we believe our fight is a class
struggle and not a race struggle."
Internationalist offshoots of black power include African Internationalism,
pan-Africanism, black nationalism, and black supremacy.
See also: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The term "Black Power" was used in a different sense in the 1850s by black
leader Frederick Douglass as an alternative name for the Slave Power—that
is the disproportionate political power at the national level held by slave
owners in the South. Douglass predicted: "The days of Black Power are
numbered. Its course, indeed is onward. But with the swiftness of an arrow,
it rushes to the tomb. While crushing its millions, it is also crushing itself.
The sword of Retribution, suspended by a single hair, hangs over it. That
sword must fall. Liberty must triumph."
In apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela's African National Congress used
the call-and-response chant "Amandla! (Power!)", "Ngawethu! (The power is ours!)"
from the late 1950s onward.
The modern American concept emerged from the Civil Rights Movement in the early
1960s. Beginning in 1959, Robert F. Willams, president of the Monroe,
North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, openly questioned the ideology of
nonviolence and its domination of the movement's strategy. Williams was supported
by prominent leaders such as Ella Baker and James Forman, and opposed by others,
such as Roy Wilkins (the national NAACP chairman) and Martin Luther King.
In 1961, Maya Angelou, Leroi Jones, and Mae Mallory led a riotous (and widely covered)
demonstration at the United Nations to protest the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.
 Malcolm X, national representative of the Nation of Islam, also launched an
extended critique of nonviolence and integrationism at this time. After seeing the
increasing militancy of blacks in the wake of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing,
and wearying of the domination of Elijah Muhammed over the Nation of Islam,
Malcolm left that organization and engaged with the mainstream of the
Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm was now open to voluntary integration as a
long-term goal, but still supported armed self-defense, self-reliance, and
black nationalism; he became a simultaneous spokesman for the militant wing of the
Civil Rights Movement and the non-separatist wing of the Black Power movement.
An early manifestation of Black Power in popular culture was the performances given
by Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall in March 1964, and the album In Concert which
resulted from them. Simone mocked liberal nonviolence ("Go Limp"), and took a
vengeful position toward white racists ("Mississippi Goddamn" and her adaptation of
"Pirate Jenny"). Historian Ruth Feldstein writes that, "Contrary to the neat
historical trajectories which suggest that black power came late in the decade
and only after the 'successes' of earlier efforts, Simone's album makes clear that
black power perspectives were already taking shape and circulating widely...in the
early 1960s." 
By 1966, most of SNCC's field staff, among them Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture),
were becoming critical of the nonviolent approach to confronting racism and inequality
—articulated and promoted by Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, and other
moderates—and rejected desegregation as a primary objective. King was critical of
the black power movement, stating in an August 1967 speech to the SCLC: "Let us be
dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout 'White Power!' — when nobody will
shout 'Black Power!' — but everybody will talk about God's power and human power."
In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, King stated:
In the final analysis the weakness of Black Power is its failure to see that the
black man needs the white man and the white man needs the black man. However much we
may try to romanticize the slogan, there is no separate black path to power and
fulfillment that does not intersect white paths, and there is no separate white path
to power and fulfillment, short of social disaster, that does not share that power with
black aspirations for freedom and human dignity. We are bound together in a single garment
of destiny. The language, the cultural patterns, the music, the material prosperity, and
even the food of America are an amalgam of black and white.
SNCC's base of support was generally younger and more working-class than that of the
other "Big Five" civil rights organizations and became increasingly more militant
and outspoken over time. As a result, as the Civil Rights Movement progressed,
increasingly radical, more militant voices came to the fore to aggressively challenge
white hegemony. Increasing numbers of black youth, particularly, rejected their elders'
moderate path of cooperation, racial integration and assimilation. They rejected the
notion of appealing to the public's conscience and religious creeds and took the tack
articulated by another black activist more than a century before, abolitionist
Frederick Douglass, who wrote:
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want
crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning.
They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. ...
Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.
Most early 1960s civil rights leaders did not believe in physically violent
retaliation. However, much of the African-American rank-and-file, and those leaders
with strong working-class ties, tended to compliment nonviolent action with armed
self-defense. For instance, prominent nonviolent activist Fred Shuttlesworth of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (and a leader of the 1963 Birmingham campaign),
had worked closely with an armed defense group that was led by Colonel Stone Johnson.
As Alabama historian Frye Gaillard writes,
...these were the kind of men Fred Shuttlesworth admired, a mirror of the toughness
he aspired to himself…They went armed [during the Freedom Rides], for it was one of
the realities of the civil rights movement that however nonviolent it may have been
at its heart, there was always a current of 'any means necessary,' as the black power
advocates would say later on.
During the March Against Fear, there was a division between those aligned with
Martin Luther King, Jr. and those aligned with Carmichael, marked by their
respective slogans, "Freedom Now" and "Black Power."
While King never endorsed the slogan, his rhetoric sometimes came close to it.
In his 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here?, King wrote that "power is not the
white man's birthright; it will not be legislated for us and delivered in neat
Although the concept remained imprecise and contested and the people who used
the slogan ranged from business people who used it to push black capitalism to
revolutionaries who sought an end to capitalism, the idea of Black Power exerted
a significant influence. It helped organize scores of community self-help groups
and institutions that did not depend on Whites. It was used to force black studies
programs at colleges, to mobilize black voters to elect black candidates, and to
encourage greater racial pride and self-esteem.
One of the most spectacular and unexpected demonstrations for Black Power occurred
at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. At the conclusion of the 200m race, at
the medal ceremony, United States gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist
John Carlos wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges and showed the raised fist
(see 1968 Olympics Black Power salute) as the anthem played. Accompanying them was
silver medalist Peter Norman, a white Australian sprinter, who also wore an OPHR
badge to show his support for the two African Americans.
Impact on Black politics
Though the Black Power movement did not immediately remedy the political problems
faced by African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s, the movement did contribute to
the development of black politics both directly and indirectly. As a contemporary
of and successor to the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power movement created,
what sociologist Herbert H. Haines refers to as a "positive radical flank effect"
on political affairs of the 1960s. Though the nature of the relationship between
the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power movement is contested, Haines' study
of the relationship between black radicals and the mainstream civil rights movement
indicates that Black Power generated a "crisis in American institutions which made
the legislative agenda of 'polite, realistic, and businesslike' mainstream
organizations" more appealing to politicians. In this way, it can be argued that
the more strident and oppositional messages of the Black Power movement indirectly
enhanced the bargaining position of more moderate activists. Black Power
activists approached politics with vitality, variety, wit, and creativity that
shaped the way future generations approached dealing with America's societal
problems (McCartney 188). These activists capitalized on the nation's recent
awareness of the political nature of oppression, a primary focus of the
Civil Rights Movement, developing numerous political action caucuses and
grass roots community associations to remedy the situation 
The National Black Political Convention, held March 10–12, 1972, was a
significant milestone in black politics of the Black Power era. Held in
Gary, Indiana, a majorly black city, the convention included a diverse
group of black activists, although it completely excluded whites. The
convention was criticized for its racial exclusivity by Roy Wilkins of the
NAACP, a group that supported integration. The delegates created a
National Black Political Agenda with stated goals including the election
of a proportionate number of black representatives to Congress, community
control of schools, national health insurance, etc. Though the convention
did not result in any direct policy, the convention advanced goals of the
Black Power movement and left participants buoyed by a spirit of possibility
and themes of unity and self-determination. A concluding note to the convention,
addressing its supposed idealism, read: "At every critical moment of our
struggle in America we have had to press relentlessly against the limits of the
'realistic' to create new realities for the life of our people. This is our
challenge at Gary and beyond, for a new Black politics demands new vision,
new hope and new definitions of the possible. Our time has come. These things
are necessary. All things are possible." Though such political activism
may not have resulted in direct policy, they provided political models for
later movements, advanced a pro-black political agenda, and brought sensitive
issues to the forefront of American politics. In its confrontational and often
oppositional nature, the Black Power movement started a debate within the black
community and America as a nation over issues of racial progress, citizenship,
and democracy, namely "the nature of American society and the place of the
African American in it." The continued intensity of debate over these same
social and political issues is a tribute to the impact of the Black Power
movement in arousing the political awareness and passions of citizens.
Impact on other movements
Though the aims of the Black Power movement were racially specific, much of
the movement's impact has been its influence on the development and strategies
of later political and social movements. By igniting and sustaining debate on
the nature of American society, the Black Power movement created what other
multiracial and minority groups interpreted to be a viable template for the
overall restructuring of society. By opening up discussion on issues of
democracy and equality, the Black Power movement paved the way for a diverse
plurality of social justice movements, including black feminism, environmental
movements, affirmative action, and gay and lesbian rights. Central to these
movements were the issues of identity politics and structural inequality,
features emerging from the Black Power movement. Because the
Black Power movement emphasized and explored a black identity, movement
activists were forced to confront issues of gender and class as well.
Many activists in the Black Power movement became active in related movements.
This is seen in the case of the "second wave" of women's right activism, a
movement supported and orchestrated to a certain degree by women working from
within the coalition ranks of the Black Power movement. The boundaries
between social movements became increasingly unclear at the end of the 1960s
and into the 1970s; where the Black Power movement ends and where these other
social movements begin is often unclear. "It is pertinent to note that as the
movement expanded the variables of gender, class, and only compounded issues
of strategy and methodology in black protest thought."
Impact on African-American identity
Protester raises his hand in black power salute, Ferguson, Missouri, 15
August 2014 Due to the negative and militant reputation of such auxiliaries
as that of the Black Panther Party, many people felt that this movement of
"insurrection" would soon serve to cause discord and disharmony through the
entire U.S. Even Stokely Carmichael stated, "When you talk of Black Power,
you talk of building a movement that will smash everything Western civilization
has created." Though Black Power at the most basic level refers to a political
movement, the psychological and cultural messages of the Black Power movement,
though less tangible, have had perhaps a longer-lasting impact on American society
than concrete political changes. Indeed, "fixation on the 'political' hinders
appreciation of the movement's cultural manifestations and unnecessarily obscures
black culture's role in promoting the psychological well being of the
Afro-American people," states William L. Van Deburg, author of A New Day
in Babylon, "movement leaders never were as successful in winning power for the
people as they were in convincing people that they had sufficient power within
themselves to escape 'the prison of self-deprecation'"  Primarily, the
liberation and empowerment experienced by African Americans occurred in the
psychological realm. The movement uplifted the black community as a whole by
cultivating feelings of racial solidarity and positive self-identity, often in
opposition to the world of white Americans, a world that had physically and
psychologically oppressed Blacks for generations. Stokely Carmichael stated
that "the goal of black self-determination and black self-identity--
Black Power--is recognition of the virtues in themselves as black people."
 Through the movement, blacks came to understand themselves and their
culture by exploring and debating the question, "who are we?" in order to
establish a unified and viable identity. And "if black people are to
know themselves as a vibrant, valiant people, they must know their roots."
Throughout the Civil Rights Movement and black history, there has been
tension between those wishing to minimize and maximize racial difference.
W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr. often attempted to deemphasize
race in their quest for equality, while those advocating for separatism
and colonization emphasized an extreme and irreconcilable difference
between races. The Black Power movement largely achieved an equilibrium of
"balanced and humane ethnocentrism." The impact of the Black Power
movement in generating discussion about ethnic identity and black
consciousness supported the appearance and expansion of academic fields
of American studies, Black Studies, and African studies, and the
founding of several museums devoted to African-American history and culture
in this period. In these ways the Black Power movement led to greater
respect for and attention accorded to African Americans' history and culture.
Impact in Britain
Black Power got a foothold in Britain when Carmichael came to London in
July 1967 to attend the Dialectics of Liberation Congress. As well as his
address at the Congress, he also made a speech at Speakers' Corner. At
that time there was no Black Power organization in Britain, although there
was Michael X's Racial Adjustment Action Society. However, this was more
influenced by the visit of Malcolm X in that year. Michael X also adopted
Islam at this stage, whereas Black Power was not organized around any
religious institution. The Black Power Manifesto was launched on
10 November 1967, published by the Universal Coloured People's Association.
Obi Egbuna, the spokesperson for the group, claimed they had recruited
778 members in London during the previous seven weeks. In 1968 Egbuna
published Black Power or Death. He was also active with CLR James,
Calvin Hernton and others in the Antiuniversity of London, set up
following the Dialectics of Liberation Congress.
Afro-British who identified themselves as the British Black Power Movement
(BBMP) formed in the 1960s. They worked with the U.S. Black Panther Party
in 1967–68, and 1968–72. The On March 2, 1970, roughly one hundred
people protested outside the U.S. embassy in Grosvenor Square, London,
in support of the U.S. Black Panther founder Bobby Seale, who was on trial
for murder in New Haven, Connecticut. They chanted "Free Bobby!" and
carried posters proclaiming "Free, Free bobby Seale" and "You can kill a
revolutionary but not a revolution."  London police arrested sixteen
of the protestors that day, three women and thirteen men with threatening
and assaulting police officers, distributing a flier entitled
"the Definition of Black Power", intending to incite a breach of the peace,
and willful damage to a police raincoat. The raincoat charge was dropped
by the judge, but the judge found five of the accused guilty of the
Impact in Jamaica
A Black Power movement arose in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Though Jamaica
had gained independence from the British Empire in 1962, and
Prime Minister Hugh Shearer was black, many cabinet ministers
(such as Edward Seaga) and business elites were white. Large segments of
the black majority population were unemployed or did not earn a living wage.
The Jamaica Labour Party government of Hugh Shearer banned Black Power
literature such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the works of
Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael.
Guyanese academic Walter Rodney was appointed as a lecturer at the
University of the West Indies in January 1968, and became one of the
main exponents of Black Power in Jamaica. When the Shearer government
banned Rodney from re-entering the country, the Rodney Riots broke out.
As a result of the Rodney affair, radical groups and publications such
as Abeng began to emerge, and the opposition People's National Party
gained support. In the 1972 election, the Jamaica Labour Party was
defeated by the People's National Party, and Michael Manley, who had
expressed support for Black Power, became Prime Minister.
Black is beautiful
Main article: Black is beautiful
The cultivation of pride in the African-American race was often
summarized in the phrase "Black is Beautiful." The phrase is rooted
in its historical context, yet the relationship to it has changed
in contemporary times. "I don't think it's 'Black is beautiful'
anymore. It's 'I am beautiful and I'm black.' It's not the symbolic
thing, the afro, power sign… That phase is over and it succeeded.
My children feel better about themselves and they know that they're
black," stated a respondent in Bob Blauner's longitudinal oral history
of U.S. race relations in 1986. The outward manifestations of an
appreciation and celebration of blackness abound: black dolls,
natural hair, black Santas, models and celebrities that were once rare
and symbolic have become commonplace.
The "Black is beautiful" cultural movement aimed to dispel the notion
that black people's natural features such as skin color, facial features
and hair are inherently ugly. John Sweat Rock was the first to coin
the phrase "Black is Beautiful", in the slavery era. The movement asked
that men and women stop straightening their hair and attempting to lighten
or bleach their skin. The prevailing idea in American culture was that
black features are less attractive or desirable than white features.
The movement is largely responsible for the popularity of the Afro.
Impact on arts and culture
Three Proud People mural in Newtown, depicting the
1968 Olympics Black Power salute.
The Black Power movement produced artistic and cultural products that
both embodied and generated pride in "blackness" and further defined
an African-American identity that remains contemporary. Black Power is
often seen as a cultural revolution as much as a political revolution,
with the goal of celebrating and emphasizing the distinctive group
culture of African Americans to an American society that had previously
been dominated by white artistic and cultural expressions. Black power
utilized all available forms of folk, literary, and dramatic expression
based in a common ancestral past to promote a message of self-
actualization and cultural self-definition. The emphasis on a
distinctive black culture during the Black Power movement publicized
and legitimized a culture gap between Blacks and Whites that had
previously been ignored and denigrated. More generally, in recognizing
the legitimacy of another culture and challenging the idea of white
cultural superiority, the Black Power movement paved the way for the
celebration of multiculturalism in America today.
The cultural concept of "soul" was fundamental to the image of
African-American culture embodied by the Black Power movement.
Soul, a type of "in-group cultural cachet," was closely tied to
black America's need for individual and group self-identification.
A central expression of the "soulfulness" of the Black Power
generation was a cultivation of aloofness and detachment, the creation
of an "aura or emotional invulnerability," a persona that challenged
their position of relative powerlessness in greater society.
The nonverbal expressions of this attitude, including everything from
posture to handshakes, were developed as a counterpoint to the rigid,
"up-tight" mannerisms of white people. Though the iconic symbol of
black power, the arms raised with biceps flexed and clenched fists,
is temporally specific, variants of the multitude of handshakes, or
"giving and getting skin," in the 1960s and 1970s as a mark of communal
solidarity continue to exist as a part of black culture. Clothing
style also became an expression of Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s.
Though many of the popular trends of the movement remained confined to
the decade, the movement redefined standards of beauty that were
historically influenced by Whites and instead celebrated a natural
"blackness." As Stokely Carmichael said in 1966, "We have to stop
being ashamed of being black. A broad nose, thick lip and nappy hair
is us and we are going to call that beautiful whether they like it
or not." "Natural" hair styles, such as the Afro, became a socially
acceptable tribute to group unity and a highly visible celebration of
black heritage. Though the same social messages may no longer
consciously influence individual hair or clothing styles in today's
society, the Black Power movement was influential in diversifying
standards of beauty and aesthetic choices. The Black Power movement
raised the idea of a black aesthetic that revealed the worth and
beauty of all black people.
In developing a powerful identity from the most elemental aspects of
African-American folk life, the Black Power movement generated
attention to the concept of "soul food," a fresh, authentic, and
natural style of cooking that originated in Africa. The flavor and
solid nourishment of the food was credited with sustaining African
Americans through centuries of oppression in America and became an
important aid in nurturing contemporary racial pride.
Black Power advocates used the concept of "soul food" to further
distinguish between white and black culture; though the basic elements
of soul food were not specific to African-American food, Blacks
believed in the distinctive quality, if not superiority, of foods
prepared by Blacks. No longer racially specific, traditional
"soul foods" such as yams, collard greens, and deep-fried chicken
continue to hold a place in contemporary culinary life.
Black Arts Movement
Main article: Black Arts Movement
The Black Arts Movement or BAM, founded in Harlem by writer and activist
Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoy Jones), can be seen as the artistic branch
of the Black Power movement. This movement inspired black people to
establish ownership of publishing houses, magazines, journals and art
institutions. Other well-known writers who were involved with this movement
included Nikki Giovanni; Don L. Lee, later known as Haki Madhubuti;
Sonia Sanchez; Maya Angelou; Dudley Randall; Sterling Plumpp; Larry Neal;
Ted Joans; Ahmos Zu-Bolton; and Etheridge Knight. Several black-owned
publishing houses and publications sprang from the BAM, including Madhubuti's
Third World Press, Broadside Press, Zu-Bolton's Energy Black South Press,
and the periodicals Callaloo and Yardbird Reader. Although not strictly
involved with the Movement, other notable African-American writers such
as novelists Ishmael Reed and Toni Morrison and poet Gwendolyn Brooks can
be considered to share some of its artistic and thematic concerns.
BAM sought "to link, in a highly conscious manner, art and politics in order
to assist in the liberation of black people", and produced an increase in the
quantity and visibility of African-American artistic production. Though
many elements of the Black Arts movement are separate from the Black Power
movement, many goals, themes, and activists overlapped. Literature, drama,
and music of Blacks "served as an oppositional and defensive mechanism through
which creative artists could confirm their identity while articulating their own
unique impressions of social reality." In addition to acting as highly
visible and unifying representations of "blackness," the artistic products of
the Black Power movement also utilized themes of black empowerment and
liberation. For instance, black recording artists not only transmitted
messages of racial unity through their music, they also became significant
role models for a younger generation of African Americans. Updated protest
songs not only bemoaned oppression and societal wrongs, but utilized adversity
as a reference point and tool to lead others to activism. Some Black Power era
artists conducted brief mini-courses in the techniques of empowerment.
In the tradition of cultural nationalists, these artists taught that in order
to alter social conditions, Blacks first had to change the way they viewed
themselves; they had to break free of white norms and strive to be more natural,
a common theme of African-American art and music. Musicians such as the
Temptations sang lyrics such as "I have one single desire, just like you /
So move over, son, 'cause I'm comin' through" in their song
"Message From a Black Man," they expressed the revolutionary sentiments of
the Black Power movement.
Ishmael Reed, who is considered neither a movement apologist nor advocate,
said: "I wasn't invited to participate because I was considered an
integrationist" but he went on to explain the positive aspects of the
Black Arts Movement and the Black Power movement:
I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to
write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without
Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began
writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the
example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing,
get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and
your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and
Black Arts struck a blow for that.
By breaking into a field typically reserved for white Americans, artists
of the Black Power era expanded opportunities for current African Americans.
"Today's writers and performers," writes William L. Van Deburg, "recognize
that they owe a great deal to Black Power's explosion of cultural orthodoxy."
Bayard Rustin, an elder statesman of the Civil Rights Movement, was a harsh critic
of Black Power in its earliest days. Writing in 1966, shortly after the
March Against Fear, Rustin said that Black Power "not only lacks any real
value for the civil rights movement, but [...] its propagation is positively
harmful. It diverts the movement from a meaningful debate over strategy and tactics,
it isolates the Negro community, and it encourages the growth of anti-Negro forces.
" He particularly criticized the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC for
their turn toward Black Power, arguing that these two organizations once
"awakened the country, but now they emerge isolated and demoralized, shouting a
slogan that may afford a momentary satisfaction but that is calculated to destroy
them and their movement."